Protect Your Privacy Online with Ghostery

You get a ton of information when you are browsing the web. However, the internet also gathers a ton of information on you when you are online. Ghostery is an extension that helps prevent that. In each session, advertisers gather data about what information you are looking for, what you are buying online or who you are in general. What advertising networks do is track you all over the internet and try to figure out who you are. This allows them to show you better ads that you may click and buy a product.

The advertising network on the internet is huge and you just cannot avoid it. There are tons of free website that you access, and it is free because of the advertising revenue. Websites use advertising to thrive online. But then again, these advertising can be super intrusive. You probably have noticed how that thing you looked for on an online store follows you everywhere on the internet. It can be a shoe, a dress, or a phone. Almost anything that you check out online is there on all the other websites. It is quite creepy and it also generates a lot of revenue for the website owners.

What does Ghostery do?

Back in the day, when Ghostery started, it did not gain much traction because of their revenue model. The internet needed advertising to be open and free. Then again, people did not want to see advertisements and yet, wanted free content. So, the objective was to design better ads that do not annoy users on the web.

Ghostery was released an as an extension that blocks these kinds of tracking on the web. Whatever you look for on Amazon stays over there only. You do not get to see the vase you checked out online when you are reading news on some other site.

However, Ghostery did not block all tracking. Moreover, it did not block ads. Ghostery’s parent company initially earned revenue by selling anonymized data of how users interact with ads. Ghostery was a tool to block ads, but then again, it did not block all ads right out of the box. It needed the user to tweak the settings to see what ads and tracking were being blocked by the user in the first place.

This was a good way to understand what ads users like and what they do not. However, this was an infringement of privacy. An add-on what was designed to improve privacy did not do so and moreover, helped design better ads that users will not block.

However, that changed as Ghostery realized that privacy of the users come first. In 2018, the company shook up their business, made their program open source allowing people to understand how exactly the extension exactly works.

Opening its code to the public also puts Ghostery in the same boat as most other content blocking software on the internet. People can check the code for any security issues or even bugs. Ghostery. Now, comes with two revenue streams – Ghostery Rewards and Ghostery Insights.

Ghostery takes into the account that advertising is necessary, but so is user privacy. Hence, Ghostery now blocks intrusive content right out of the box, while providing insights to advertisers on how intrusive ads can be re-done to cater the users better.

The internet has some advertising and privacy standards and any advertisers that do not go by these standards are blocked by Ghostery right out of the box. Users can still tweak settings to make Ghostery even stricter.

As of now, Ghostery is one of the top privacy and ad-blocking tools on the web and is available almost all major browsers. Here are some pros and cons of Ghostery.

Privacy is the top priority

Even though ads are blocked on the page, ad blockers may not deal with tracking cookies that keep tracking you around all across the web. The harmless-looking website may have a ton of trackers built into them. Ghostery provides a comprehensive report on which trackers are enabled on the web page and which trackers are blocked for being too intrusive. Furthermore, you can block all the trackers using Ghostery if you want.

A new parent company

The entire team behind Ghostery has been acquired by Cliqz. Cliqz is a German-privacy centric company that build Cliqz, a privacy-focused browser with built-in search. Cliqz uses the technology from Ghostery and Mozilla to build an open-source browser.

The acquisition by Cliqz ensures that Ghostery comes with better content blocking and anti-tracking tools right out of the box.

Allows Acceptable Ads

Ads keep the internet free. And hence, Ghostery has been designed to allow ads that are considered to be acceptable. Websites are allowed to run self-promotions and also display other advertising as long as it does not annoy the user. Ghostery comes with a GhostRank feature that gathers information on which ads you permit and which ads you block. The data is shared with advertisers. This gives advertisers a better idea on how to design ads that users will not block.

Free of Cost

To use Ghostery, you will not have to pay a single dime. The Ghostery extension is available for Microsoft Edge, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari and any other forks of these browsers. This includes browsers like Cliqz, Yandex, Vivaldi, Chromium, Iridium, and so on. Moreover, Android and iOS devices can take advantage of the standalone Ghostery app available on the Play Store and the App Store respectively.

Fast and Easy

Getting Ghostery up and running is quite easy. Just navigate to the store where all the extensions of your browser are distributed from, search for Ghostery, download and install it. For Google Chrome and its forks such as Vivaldi, Iridium and so on, it will the Google Chrome Web Store. For Firefox and related browser, it will be the Mozilla Add-ons website. For Microsoft Edge, it will be Microsoft Store App on Windows 10 and for Safari, it will be the App Store or the iTunes Store.

Manual Tweaking

The only issue that one may complain about Ghostery is the need for manual tweaking for maximum privacy. Ghostery does not offer the maximum privacy right out of the box. To ensure compatibility and to ensure that the websites do not break down, Ghostery is shipped with slightly relaxed filtering.

You can further tweak them to get the maximum privacy. However, some websites may not work as intended.

Comprehensive Reports

Unlike other ad blockers that simply block ads, Ghostery provides a comprehensive report on which site has generated which tracker and where these trackers are tracking you. This allows you to make an informed decision about which trackers to block and which to let go.

If you do not want to have trackers from one shopping site follow you in another, you can block them. Getting to know who is tracking what allows you to experience a more informed surfing session.

Other alternatives

Ghostery is a great content blocker, but if you want something extra, here are a list of some of the ad blockers that are popular right now for blocking intrusive ads as well as malware.

Adguard

Adguard is a popular and powerful browser extension that you can use to block ads on the internet. Out of the box, Adguard blocks trackers as well as tons of intrusive ads on web pages. However, it does whitelist website self-promotions and non-intrusive ads to keep free websites free. Adguard is available for all browsers. You can use it to block almost any ads on the web page, even those that slip past the built-in filters. YouTube ads are blocked too. Moreover, it has a standalone desktop application for Windows that blocks ads not only in browsers as well as in other apps too. Adguard for Android is also a standalone app that blocks all advertising on Android apps. The Windows version comes with parental control as well as browsing security, protecting you from malware.

Adguard is, by far, the most fully featured content blocking program. Therefore, it also is slightly heavier on the system. If you are looking for a comprehensive privacy solution, look no further than Adguard.

The company also has a DNS server that can be used to block adult content, malware content as well as ads right from your router. This means no device can even connect to advertising networks. It can be a bit extreme for most home routers, but in offices, this can be a great alternative to paid DNS services that block content.

µBlock Origin

µBlock Origin is the most lightweight ad blocking solution for Firefox and Google Chrome. It is an open source project that blocks ads based on pre-defined filters as well as user-defined filters. The main USP is the minimal usage of CPU and memory resources.

Most ad blockers scan through the web page as it is rendered in the browser. This takes up a lot of CPU cycles as well as system memory. µBlock Origin, right out of the box, uses optimized filters and is one of the fastest ad blockers that are available. It is not overly protective but blocks quite a few intrusive advertisements.

Adblock Plus

Adblock Plus or ABP is the premier ad blocker on the web. It is also one of the oldest ad blocking program around. Adblock is only available as a browser extension and blocks annoying and intrusive ads. However, the software does allow some ads to stay afloat. These ads not only adhere to good advertising standards but also provides a commission to the website as well as Adblock Plus to stay afloat. Adblock Plus, it supports pages, lists all the criteria that are needed for ads to be acceptable. Any ads that deface the website prevents the user from browsing the internet, takes up too much space on the site, or masquerades as a part of the site is banned by Adblock Plus. The business model of ABP has often been frowned upon, but it does make sure that the users, advertisers and the site owners, all stay happy.

NoScript

NoScript is not an Ad blocker, but it is used to block JavaScript that runs on your browser. Every single web page you visit on a daily basis uses JavaScript. It is the part of the web pages that execute and makes pages interactive. Just HTML and CSS are used to display content, but scripts allow the programming.

NoScript is a Firefox add-on that can block all such scripts. JavaScript is extensively used by both trackers, advertisers, as well as websites. The add-on can be used to block running of all such scripts. However, these do break a lot of web pages.

NoScript is for those who value their online privacy extremely and browser the more hostile parts of the internet.

Disconnect

Disconnect is a tool that is specifically designed to block tracking cookies so that one website will not know what you are doing in some other website. It is quite like Ghostery. So, in case you want to check out an alternative that offers similar functionality, you can check out Disconnect.

Privacy Badger

Privacy Badger by The Electronic Frontier Foundation brings the best of both ad blocking as well as tracker blocking in a single add-on. It is not as aggressive as a dedicated ad-blocker or a content blocker, but it gets the job done. Moreover, the Electronic Frontier Foundation is quite a reputed organization when it comes to protecting privacy on the internet.

You can customize Privacy Badger to block both tracking and ads aggressively, but out of the box, it does allow some ads and tracking, like most other extensions or add-ons.

HTTPS Everywhere

Another extension by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, HTTPS Everywhere does just what the name says. It forces the browser to use an HTTPS connection, which is the secured connection that uses encryption to hide your browsing activities. No middlemen can see what you are doing online when you are using HTTPS connection. Hence, HTTPS Everywhere paired with Ghostery or Privacy Badger provides optimum privacy without breaking the internet.

 

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